Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

In the Shadow of the Banyan
by Vaddey Ratner
Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4516-5770-8
Release Date:  July 31, 2012
Buy from Indigo

Description: Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this searing first novelbased on the authors personal storyhas been hailed by Little Bee author Chris Cleave as a masterpieceutterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodias capital. Soon the familys world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. 

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhoodthe mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the authors extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience

The Good Stuff
  • Heartbreaking - this story will haunt you long after you have read it
  • The prose is so exquisite and beautifully written, such talent for first time author
  • It is hard for me to express how spectacular this book is, everything I want to say sounds trite when compared to the beauty of the authors words and the horror she lived through
  • Raami is such a strong girl, one to be admired for her strength of character and her ability to transcend the horrific tragedy she lived through and to still find beauty in her world. 
  • As the author says in her own words she wants the world to see how beautiful Cambodia was before the genocide & which while reading you come to understand what was lost during the "killing fields"
  • Shows the will that we have to live no matter the circumstance
  • The writing really comes across of that of a young girl, so authentic and haunting
  • Such joy love and hope in such a tragic situation gives a balance to the acts of brutal violence by the Khymer Rouge - shows that the world is full of both good and evil
  • Author mentions on quite a few occasions the power of stories to escape and to give hope (Wonderfully explained on Pg 134 of the ARC)
The Not So Good Stuff
  • It is a tough read for someone as sensitive as myself.  Reading of the brutality and  inhumanity of  man sickens me and I cannot even comprehend how or why someone could commit such horrific crimes against their fellow man, especially to innocent children
  • Pages 125 - 127 (ARC) were brutal for me to read, being a mother
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"But, looking at the murals, I had the feeling the tales had followed us here, moving along with us on our journey, manifesting themselves in all sorts of ways.
Knowing comes from learning, finding from seeking.
It was clear what the message meant. If I looked hard enough, if I sought, I would find what I was looking for."

"I'm certain, though, he remained resolute in his belief that even without him you would live through this nightmare, that life, with all its cruelty and horror, was still worth living.  A gift he would've wanted his daughter to embrace."

"Bury me and I'll thrive as countless insects
I bend neither to your weapon nor will
Even as you trample upon my bones
I cower not under your soulless tread
Or fear your shadow casting upon my grave."

"I told you stories to give you wings, Raami, so that you would never be trapped by anything - your name, your title, the limits of your body, this world's suffering."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • This is one I would suggest for everyone to read with a warning for those who are sensitve
  • This will be an award winner, so get it now people
4.75 Dewey's

I received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review - thanks for once again forcing me out of my comfortable reading zone


  1. Oh god I am so freaked out to read this book. I just know its going to make me cry and then Im going to have to make my bf get cookie in order to try and console me. It just sounds like a cookie therapy kind of book.

    1. I would say a half dozen cookies too - but worth it so very very good!